Develop strong girls and boys – free Challenge exercise

Develop strong girls and boys – free Challenge exercise
May 10, 2019 Niels van Hove

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My first children’s book, My Strong Mind, was published in October 2017. I wrote it based on stories from my two girls, who were aged 6 and 8 back then. I wanted them to become strong girls! I published My Strong Mind II in August 2019, to help develop strong boys!

Based on my book I created a My Strong Mind school program to develop mental toughness in primary school teachers and students. My program has shown measurable progress in mental toughness as you can read in this case study.

In a series of blogs, I will share some of the evidence-based exercises I use in my school program.

The 4 Cs of mental toughness can be described as:

  • Commitment: I promise to do it. I will set a goal and do whatever it takes to deliver.
  • Control: I really believe I can do it. I will keep my emotions in check when doing it.
  • Challenge: I’m driven to do it. I will take chance and acceptable risk. Setbacks will make me stronger.
  • Confidence: I believe I have the ability to do it. I can stand my ground if I need to.

Or in graph form:

In this blog I will share a Challenge exercise that goes nicely together with my book.

Challenge describes the extent to which the individual will push back their boundaries, embrace change and accept risk. It’s also about how they see all outcomes – good and bad. The Challenge component of mental toughness is closely related to a growth mindset.

Someone who measures high on challenge, will typically enjoy new places, new people, innovation and creativity, but also can become quickly bored by routine.

Exercise approach

Read My Strong Mind and introduce the 4Cs 

  • Read My Strong Mind with the children, so they can relate with Kate further in the exercise.
  • You can download the 4C overview here and have a short conversation with the children about what every C could mean.

Introduce the Challenge exercise

  • Explain to the children that we all have challenges and it is OK to fail. Everybody does and it is a vital component of learning and getting better at something.
  • Explain the power of YET. I can’t do this YET, but if I practice more I might. However, every skill takes practice and some form of stretching ourselves. No great skill comes for free
  • Consider giving examples of where you stretched yourself and failed as a teacher or a person. How did you get better from it? What did you learn? This gives children confidence that it is OK to fail and share their stories

 Do the exercise

  • Download the exercise here, print it and hand out.
  • Give the children time enough to complete.
  • Optionally, some children can explain their exercise in front of the class.


  • What occurred? What difference did that make?
  • How did I feel. Has my mood changed?
  • What did I learn? Could I do it differently next time?
  • Where else can I apply this?

Hope you enjoy the exercise. Let me know how it went.

All the best,


PS. Keep an eye out for my next My Strong Mind book. I’ll publish this in the second half of 2019.